Study after study has taught us that there is no tool more effective for development than the empowerment of women.
[p823] Ending FGM in the West means eliminating it at its sources. When xenophobia ceases to exist on such a large scale; when ending poverty and hunger becomes the number one priority in the world; when global violence against women ceases; when girls and women are educated in greater numbers; and when women are truly valued, FGM will be eradicated.
Some positive steps have been taken. Enacting legislation makes the bold statement that governments acknowledge that FGM is torture and should not be tolerated. Enforcing that legislation will make an even bolder statement. Creating outreach programs and holding national conversations are also powerful tools that governments are utilizing. However, more steps are needed.
Empowering women worldwide will also help in the fight against FGM. To this end, the United Nations has finally established a “super” agency for women. Hopefully this agency will be fully funded and supported so that it can do the important work that needs to be done to help women reach their full potential on the planet.
Supporting grassroots education movements in practicing countries will also teach women they can just say “no” to FGM. Some have suggested creating non-harmful rituals to take the place of FGM.
Also, asylum laws must be reexamined to see if they can be fashioned in a way to make it easier for women to prove that they are entitled to remain in the host country.
Finally, it appears that importing FGM to the West, by either sending female children back to practicing countries or by actually [p824] having it done in that western nation, is the cruelest cut. Yet in reality, the cruelest cut is ignoring the plight of women worldwide that provides the conditions for FGM to thrive.
Patricia A. Broussard is an associate professor of law at Florida A & M College of Law in Orlando, Florida.